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Buzz Aldrin standing by united states flag on the moon 1969 Buzz Aldrin stands beside a U.S. flag on the surface of the moon during the Apollo 11 mission, July 20, 1969. (Photo: NASA)

Moon Walk

July marks the 40th anniversary of a major milestone in space exploration—people landing on the moon

By Kem Knapp Sawyer | null null , null
<i>Apollo 11 </i>Astronaut Buzz Aldrin's bootprint. Aldrin photographed this bootprint on July 20, 1969, as part of investigations into the soil of the moon's surface. (Photo: NASA)<br />
Apollo 11 Astronaut Buzz Aldrin's bootprint. Aldrin photographed this bootprint on July 20, 1969, as part of investigations into the soil of the moon's surface. (Photo: NASA)

One million people watched at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida as the engines fired, and smoke and flames filled the sky. At 9:32 a.m., on July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 lifted off.

Three astronauts, Neil Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, and Michael Collins, were on board the historic flight. Two of them would become the first people to set foot on the moon.

On Their Way

Apollo 11 was made up of two parts. After blastoff, Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins settled into the command ship part of the spacecraft, called the Columbia. On July 19, three days after liftoff, the astronauts saw the moon up close for the first time.

The Eagle was the part of the spacecraft that would travel to the moon. Armstrong and Aldrin flew to the moon's surface in the Eagle. Collins was to stay behind to pilot Columbia.

Final Approach

Soon, Armstrong and Aldrin got a view of where they were supposed to land. They were surprised to see that it was full of large rocks and craters.

They had to quickly find a better landing site or they would run out of fuel. The astronauts finally touched down with only 30 seconds to spare.

Armstrong was the first to climb down the ladder. About 600 million people worldwide watched on television as he stepped onto the moon. "That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind," the astronaut proclaimed.

Moon Trek

Aldrin soon joined Armstrong on the moon. They spent 2 hours and 14 minutes exploring the surface. During that time, the astronauts took photographs and set up scientific experiments.

Before ending their walk on the moon, Aldrin and Armstrong placed a U.S. flag in the ground. With it they left a plaque that read, "We came in peace for all mankind."

After reconnecting with Collins at Columbia, the three astronauts headed back to Earth. On July 24, Columbia splashed down in the Pacific Ocean, returning everyone safely.

Everyone's Success


The astronauts were greeted as heroes. But they knew their mission was a result of teamwork. More than 400,000 people played a role, from flight directors and teachers to space-suit designers.

Landing people on the moon was a huge accomplishment for America. The success of Apollo 11 increased our knowledge of the moon, sun, and Earth. The mission helped pave the way for future human space exploration.

When Scholastic News asked Aldrin why space exploration is important, he had a simple answer: "The ultimate goal of human and robotic activity in space is to benefit mankind."

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